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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Case Scenarios for Training with Shelter Staff

The following scenarios are intended to demonstrate types of conflict that may arise in the shelter setting. Each scenario is followed by questions to be considered and used for discussion as part of discussions about approaches to more effective conflict resolution.

Scenario 1

Judy arrived at the shelter late last night and needs court accompaniment for a Protective Order hearing this morning. Her case is quite severe and involves use of strangulation, weapons, and threats to kill her by her partner who is a law enforcement officer. Prior to Judy's arrival, another resident, Donna, requested transportation and accompaniment to her appointment for transitional housing; she's new to the area and very nervous about her interview. At this time, there's only one staff member (the Case Manager) who's available to go to one of the appointments.

Questions to be explored...

  1. Which appointment should the Case Manager attend? Why?
  2. What other resources/options might be offered to the resident who will not be accompanied by the Case Manager?
  3. How will that message be delivered to each resident in need of and requesting service?  
  4. What are the implications for staff relationships with residents in these situations?
  5. Are there conflicting concerns or priorities regarding service provision amongst the staff (case management vs. legal)? What implications do they have in this scenario?
  6. What role might agency policies, program or funding goals, and advocacy philosophy play in this situation?

Scenario 2

Suki has been in the shelter for 3 months now, awaiting final confirmation of her move-in date for transitional housing (it's been rescheduled twice at this point). She's becoming increasingly frustrated with the slow response from the Housing Authority, and with the rules of the shelter, which she finds to be very limiting and too strict for a grown woman in her 40's.

On a few occasions she's been written up for not having her daughter in school during the weekday. Suki was very upset that shelter staff did not respect her decision to keep her child home from school because her hair wasn't done and her uniform had not been washed. On another occasion, it was snowing outside and her daughter did not have a proper winter coat, so she didn't feel that her daughter could walk to school. This morning, Suki's frustrations boiled over and she screamed at the Director of the Shelter, and made physically threatening gestures. Several residents saw this happen and now Suki has stormed out of the shelter.

Questions to be explored...

  1. How do you respond to the residents who have witnessed this entire exchange?
  2. What will be the staff response to Suki when she returns to the shelter?
  3. What are the implications for your continued service provision to Suki and her daughter?
  4. How might Suki's past experiences with domestic violence and at the shelter, including past conflicts with staff, contribute to this situation?
  5. What role might shelter rules, program or funding goals, and advocacy philosophy play in this situation?

Scenario 3

Recently, Kelly, the overnight weekend staff at the shelter, was out sick for a few days. Staff who filled in for her reported that a few women came in past curfew and two of them appeared inebriated. They made lots of noise and disturbed several of the children who had already been put to bed. When confronted by the relief staff, the residents said that Kelly lets them come in when they want to because it's the weekend and she believes they need more freedom in the shelter. To date, as Director, you've received no reports that residents in the shelter have come in past curfew or been suspected of drinking alcohol, however you are aware that one of the women that came in late has a history of substance abuse.

Questions to be explored...

  1. As Kelly's supervisor, how to do manage this situation upon her return?
  2. How do you respond to the residents that have been "breaking shelter rules" with the permission of shelter staff?
  3. Noting the past experiences of each of the women that came in past curfew, including victimization, shelter living, and various interactions with staff, how might those experiences have contributed to this situation?
  4. What role might agency policy, shelter rules, and advocacy philosophy play in this situation?
  5. What are the implications for staff relationships with residents in the shelter? Consider those that were involved and those that were not.
  6. How do you raise and discuss these issues at your next staff meeting? Consider whether there are factors that make exceptions to rules necessary. Who should be making that judgment and on what basis?